Why Monticello is the perfect place for the Canyon Country Discovery Center
by Buckley Jensen
Mar 28, 2012 | 2525 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Editor’s note: This is the 2nd installment of a four part series on the new multi-million Canyon Country Discovery Center in Monticello.

Last week I shared how Bill Boyle transformed a friendly conversation over lunch in Salt Lake City in 2001 into what is now a multi-million dollar development rising north of Monticello on Highway 191.

Today lets take a look at what gives this project such potential.

In the early l970’s Monticello billed itself as the “Queen City of the Golden Circle.” The State had drawn a golden ring around the National Parks and other attractions that were in Southern Utah, Western Colorado and Northern Arizona and spent millions marketing the concept. Monticello is located exactly in the center of the Golden Circle.

In l971-72, I wrote a 200 page master’s thesis at BYU on an outdoor education school I dreamed of building. In that thesis, I drew a circle with a 100-mile radius around Monticello. With research I learned that there were more nationally designated Parks, Monuments, Forests, Recreation Areas, Wilderness areas, State Parks, wild Rivers and other sites (like world famous Monument Valley) closer to Monticello than any other community in the United States.

Add to that the fact that in San Juan there is a 10,000-foot elevation differential from the tops of our high alpine mountains to the bottom of our wild rivers. In some places that differential occurs within a thirty mile distance. There is an amazing number of starkly contrasting eco systems, containing an amazing variety of flora and fauna in a thirty mile distance. For example, Mount Peale in the LaSal Mountains is the second highest peak in the State and is just a squosh under 13,000 feet. It is above the timber line and is nothing by barren shale. Thirty some miles west of Mt. Peale the Colorado River roars through its deep canyons at an elevation of about 3,000 feet. In between in that thirty-mile stretch practically every eco system in the Western United States is represented. To someone from Kansas, it is unbelievable.

Add to all that the fact that for every famous nationally recognized area in the County (like Canyonlands or Lake Powell) there are dozens of places known only to locals and those who regularly come to this area to explore and escape the modern world.

Some of the finest archaeological sites, scenic vistas and untouched areas are deep in San Juan, difficult to access and absolutely pristine. If the outside world knew about them, they would be as famous as their nationally designated cousins.

Add to that the richness of our archaeological history, our pioneer history and the areas around it on the Colorado Plateau. The endless variety and stark beauty combines to make Monticello the best location in the U. S. for a facility like the new Canyon Country Discovery Center. (In my humble opinion.)

Janet Ross knew that when she decided to locate here 27 years ago. Whether it is the Colorado Plateau or Utah’s Golden Circle, Monticello is the heart of it all. People who are in the know, and have the money to make the Discovery Center a reality, also know the majesty of our location. Why do you think the environmentalists work unceasingly to preserve it all in its pristine state? We have a treasure trove of natural wonders in San Juan County in a relatively small area unlike anywhere else in the entire world…( Again, in my opinion).

I love the description of the Colorado Plateau/Golden Circle region from the information booklet published by the Discovery Center for marketing and advertising purposes.. “When asked to explain what makes the Colorado Plateau unique, geographers grow cryptic, enigmatic, even mystical. Perhaps that is inevitable, for nothing is more typical of the “Plateau” than enigma itself. The Colorado Plateau epitomizes the American Frontier. It is wild and massive—difficult to grasp all at once. Pocketed by deep canyons, dotted with high, isolated mountain ranges and subject to hot, dry summers, this region has more than once proven itself a challenge for human development and habitation.”

Take these natural treasures we have been blessed with in San Juan County and the larger Colorado Plateau Region and combine it with the experience, success and dedication of an organization like Janet Ross’ Four Corners School and magical things begin to happen.

In Janet’s own words, “The first time I saw the Colorado Plateau was in l969 as a high school student on my way from the Midwest, where I grew up, to check out Prescott College in Arizona. The landscape I saw as I drove up onto the Plateau from Phoenix was as open as the cobalt blue sky above me. I felt I was home and so a seed was planted that would come to fruition after earning my degree. In college two things happened that shaped the rest of my life. First, I fell in love with the Colorado Plateau, where I developed a sense of place. Second, I learned first-hand the power of hands-on, place-based, outdoor education to change lives, as it was changing mine. After beginning my career working for various outdoor programs, I was finally able to bring my college dream of sharing the natural wonders of the Colorado Plateau to life by opening Four Corners School. Over the years our talented staff has created exceptional educational programs and provided countless hours of service and research on public and tribal lands. How wonderful it is to have a job in a profession and cause that you are passionate about.”

Some of the accomplishments of the Four Corners School since its founding in Monticello in l984 are:

Served over 82,460 participants ranging in age from 6-90.

Taught over 709,000 hours of student/youth education programs.

Provided 266,000 hours of adult education and 104,800 hours of teacher training.

Awarded 200 teaching scholarships.

Repaired or rehabilitated hundreds of miles of roads and trails.

Worked to protect over 29 archaeological sites on public lands.

The Four Corners School has been recognized with an impressive list of 18 regional, national and international awards.

With the grandest “stage” in the world, and one of the most knowledgeable people in the country in the person of Ms. Ross running the project exciting things are happening.

Next week we will explore what the Canyon Country Discovery Center will bring to San Juan County.

See entire series:
1- Canyon Country Discovery Center – from a dream to reality
2- Why Monticello is the perfect place for the Canyon Country Discovery Center
3- A look at facilities and programs designed for the new Canyon Country Discovery Center
4- The Canyon Country Discovery Center by the numbers
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